Salt substitute could reduce high blood pressure problems

Replacing regular salt with a salt substitute could reduce incidences of high blood pressure in older adults, without increasing the risk of low blood pressure episodes, according to international researchers. The team included 611 participants 55 years or older from 48 care facilities split into two groups: 24 facilities (313 participants) replacing usual salt with the salt substitute and 24 facilities (298 participants) continuing the use of usual salt. After two years, people using the salt substitute were 40% less likely to develop hypertension compared to those using regular salt. The salt substitutes did not cause hypotension, the team added, which can be a common issue in older adults. In the same trial, a second paper involving the same authors (to be published in a different journal with a slightly different embargo time) found the salt substitution was also more cost effective. Taken together, these findings show salt substitution could not only be good for health, but also cost-effective.

Journal/conference: Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Organisation/s: Peking University Clinical Research Institute, China

Funder: This trial was supported by the National Key Research and Development
Program, Ministry of Science and Technology of China, through
the research grant “Diet, Exercise and Cardiovascular Health
(DECIDE) Project” (2016YFC1300200). China Salt General Company at
Yulin provided the usual salt and salt substitute used in the study free
of charge. The authors have reported that they have no relationships
relevant to the contents of this paper to disclose.

Media release

From: American College of Cardiology

Salt Substitutes Help to Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure in Older Adults

DECIDE-Salt Study: salt substitutes offer a healthy alternative to salt reduction, lowering hypertension risk without increasing low blood pressure episodes

WASHINGTON (Feb. 12, 2024) – The replacement of regular salt with a salt substitute can reduce incidences of hypertension, or high blood pressure, in older adults without increasing their risk of low blood pressure episodes, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. People who used a salt substitute had a 40% lower incidence and likelihood of experiencing hypertension compared to those who used regular salt.

According to the World Health Organization, hypertension is the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease and mortality. It affects over 1.4 billion adults and results in 10.8 million deaths per year worldwide. One of the most effective ways to reduce hypertension risk is to reduce sodium intake. This study looks at salt substitutes as a better solution to control and maintain healthy blood pressure than reducing salt alone.

“Adults frequently fall into the trap of consuming excess salt through easily accessible and budget-friendly processed foods,” said Yangfeng Wu, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and Executive Director of Peking University Clinical Research Institute in Beijing, China. “It’s crucial to recognize the impact of our dietary choices on heart health and increase the public’s awareness of lower-sodium options.”

Researchers in this study evaluated the impact of sodium reduction strategies on blood pressure in elderly adults residing in care facilities in China. While previous studies prove that reducing salt intake can prevent or delay new-onset hypertension, long-term salt reduction and avoidance can be challenging.

The DECIDE-Salt study included 611 participants 55 years or older from 48 care facilities split into two groups: 24 facilities (313 participants) replacing usual salt with the salt substitute and 24 facilities (298 participants) continuing the use of usual salt. All participants had blood pressure <140/90mmHg and were not using anti-hypertension medications at baseline. The primary outcome was participants who had incident hypertension, initiated anti-hypertension medications or developed major cardiovascular adverse events during follow-up.

At two years, the incidence of hypertension was 11.7 per 100 people-years in participants with salt substitute and 24.3 per 100 people-years in participants with regular salt. People using the salt substitute were 40% less likely to develop hypertension compared to those using regular salt. Furthermore, the salt substitutes did not cause hypotension, which can be a common issue in older adults.

“Our results showcase an exciting breakthrough in maintaining blood pressure that offers a way for people to safeguard their health and minimize the potential for cardiovascular risks, all while being able to enjoy the perks of adding delicious flavor to their favorite meals,” Wu said. “Considering its blood pressure-lowering effect, proven in previous studies, the salt substitute shows beneficial to all people, either hypertensive or normotensive, thus a desirable population strategy for prevention and control of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”

Limitations of the study include that it is a post-hoc analysis, study outcomes were not pre-specified and there was a loss of follow-up visits in many patients. Analyses indicated that these missing values were random, and multiple sensitivity analyses support the robustness of the results.

In an accompanying editorial comment, Rik Olde Engberink, MD, PhD, researcher, nephrologist and clinical pharmacologist at Amsterdam University Medical Center’s Department of Internal Medicine, said the study provides an attractive alternative to the failing strategy to reduce the intake of salt worldwide, but questions and effort remain.

“In the DECIDE-Salt trial, the salt substitute was given to the kitchen staff, and the facilities were not allowed to provide externally sourced food more than once per week,” Olde Engberink said. “This approach potentially has a greater impact on blood pressure outcomes, and for this reason, salt substitutes should be adopted early in the food chain by the food industry so that the sodium-potassium ratio of processed foods will improve.”

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) is the global leader in transforming cardiovascular care and improving heart health for all. As the preeminent source of professional medical education for the entire cardiovascular care team since 1949, ACC credentials cardiovascular professionals in over 140 countries who meet stringent qualifications and leads in the formation of health policy, standards and guidelines. Through its world-renowned family of JACC Journals, NCDR registries, ACC Accreditation Services, global network of Member Sections, CardioSmart patient resources and more, the College is committed to ensuring a world where science, knowledge and innovation optimize patient care and outcomes. Learn more at www.ACC.org or follow @ACCinTouch.

The ACC’s family of JACC Journals rank among the top cardiovascular journals in the world for scientific impact. The flagship journal, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) — and family of specialty journals consisting of JACC: Advances, JACC: Asia, JACC: Basic to Translational Science, JACC: CardioOncology, JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions, JACC: Case Reports, JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology and JACC: Heart Failure — pride themselves on publishing the top peer-reviewed research on all aspects of cardiovascular disease. Learn more at JACC.org.

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